May I ask for a ‘Stop the fire’, a’sto’stop’ or ‘a humanitarian pause’ in Gaza? Is it better to talk about a stop in the singular or a series of stops in the plural? Should we opt for a clearer term like ‘corridor’ or ‘humanitarian window’? The European Union is engaged in a semantic debate as the war between Israel and Hamas escalates and the situation of the Palestinians in the Strip continues to deteriorate by leaps and bounds.
The war between Israel and Hamas will dominate the debates of the heads of state and government on the 27th of the summit that begins this Thursday in Brussels. European leaders intend to to present a front of unity in response to this new epidemic in the Middle East, even though Member States are deeply divided over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A contradiction that prevents the EU from having an influential role in the region, in contrast to the situation enjoyed by the United States.
After the first week of many conflicting and sad voices, that damaged the credibility of the European Union and its policy towards the Middle East, the heads of state and government of the EU took the reins and agreed on a common position on October 15. A minimum agreement is based on three axes: condemnation of terrorist attacks by Hamas, recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself, and the need for the protection of civilians.
Since then, the situation has continued to worsen, especially for the Palestinians in Gaza, forcing the heads of state and government to update their positions in Brussels. And once again, internal fractures emerged between 27: while Spain, France, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the European Parliament support the humanitarian ‘pause’ or ‘truce’ formula, other countries such as Germany, Austria, Italy, or the Czech Republic promote Israel’s right to self-defense and the need to fight terrorism by Hamas.
“Yes, urgent and necessary with a ceasefire and a humanitarian ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can be allowed in Gaza in a systematic, permanent way and proportionate to the needs of the Palestinian population,” he said on Wednesday in Brussels. Pedro Sánchez, who participated in the tripartite social summit, represented the Spanish president in the Council of the EU.
For his part, the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borrell, assured that “the support for a humanitarian pause to allow the delivery of aid to Gaza is growing in the European Union” after the debate held by the UN Security Council early Wednesday morning. “All civilian lives have equal value, and all must be protected,” he wrote on his social networking account.
In the latest version of the draft conclusions, the European Council expressed its “deep concern at the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for continued, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access and for aid to reach those who need it by taking all the necessary steps, including a humanitarian pause”. But the final words may change in the next few hours.
Most of the diplomats consulted admitted it was a “semantic debate.” “What we are looking for is a way to combine unrestricted and continuous access to humanitarian aid, water, and electricity without contradicting Israel’s right to fight terrorism,” said a senior EU official. A stop or stop that should also be used to evacuate European citizens who are in Gaza and to address the situation of hostages held by Hamas, among whom there are also many Europeans.
In addition, European leaders will recommit themselves to making all possible diplomatic efforts to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spreading throughout the Middle East. In Brussels, there is great concern about threats from Hezbollah and its sponsor in Iran to enter the conflict. Beyond the long term, the heads of state and government seek to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a solution based on two states.